Just News from Center X – October 9, 2020

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Teaching, Leading, and Social Justice

Is the Election Still a Teachable Moment?

Sarah Schwartz, Education Week

Early this week, law and government teacher Daniel Bachman was preparing his class to watch the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. Bachman gave his students at Massapequa High School in New York an assignment for the night: Outline the candidates’ positions on a policy issue, focusing on the substance of their arguments and the evidence they used for support. But that night, as Trump continually interrupted Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, pitching both candidates into a 90-minute shouting match, students started sending Bachman a stream of messages via the Remind app. They weren’t sure how to complete the homework. There wasn’t enough substance in the chaos unfolding on screen for them to write anything coherent. “We wound up canceling the assignment,” Bachman said in an interview the next day. “We couldn’t do it.”

Principals Need Help Building Anti-Racist Schools

Denisa Superville, Education Week

The twin daggers of the coronavirus pandemic and the national protests over race and policing that erupted after police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis have made deeply rooted inequities harder to ignore. As principals face another year leading teachers and, more importantly, students who’ve lived through both of these traumatic and cataclysmic events, some experts argue it’s not enough for school leaders to say they’re committed to social justice or to creating equitable schools: To meet the moment, they must be explicitly anti-racist.

To safely reopen schools, we have to talk about indoor air quality and ventilation

Jeff Vincent, Ed Source

s counties across California look to reopen schools for onsite instruction, education and public health officials need to ask themselves a very important question: Have we made sure all schools and classrooms have adequate fresh air ventilation to reduce coronavirus transmission? If the answer is no, students and staff will get sick. Some help emerged from Sacramento last week: the Governor signed Assembly Bill 841, which will tackle a slice of this. The bill creates the School Reopening Ventilation and Energy Efficiency Verification and Repair Program, directing upwards of $600 million in energy efficiency funding to test, adjust and repair heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) systems in public schools over the next three years.

Language, Culture, and Power

Building Language Bridges: Ernest Morrell expands literacy education research

Brendan O’Shaughnessy, University of Notre Dame

Teaching English at Oakland High in the late 1990s, Ernest Morrell faced the age-old problem of how to get modern students interested in a canon of long-dead writers and poets. “I just got tired of teaching the regular way that I was supposed to — it did not seem all that enticing or effective,” said Morrell, now the director of the Notre Dame Center for Literacy Education. “I think, more than being innovative, I was a pragmatist and realized if I wanted to get kids looking at me and not at the top of the desk, I had to do something different.” So Morrell and a colleague, who were both pursuing a higher degree, decided to introduce elements of pop culture such as rap songs into their classrooms as a way to engage the students with topics that kids know and care about. The goal was to start where they are and connect it to what they needed to learn, using hip-hop culture “as a bridge linking the seemingly vast span between the streets and the world of academics.”

How can students learn online if they don’t know the language? This city tackled the issue

Alia Wong, Seattle Times

Meet the Reyes Acosta family. Gabriela Acosta and her husband, Rodrigo Reyes, moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma, from Central Mexico in 2013. Before a pandemic burst onto the scene, life was hard enough: Six kids. Navigating a world whose dominant language isn’t theirs. Now, Gabriela isn’t working. Her husband’s job is unstable. Add to that a new complication to maneuver: An unexpectedly online school system. Though the effect is hard to quantify, experts and educators say that distance learning likely worsened existing educational disparities. They worry that the country’s already disadvantaged students, including those who are learning to speak English, have fallen further behind.

LAUSD Voted To Reduce School Police Funding By $25 Million Three Months Ago. Now What?

Carla Javier, LAist

In June, under pressure from student groups and amid a broader push to defund law enforcement agencies around the country, the Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted 4-to-3 to reduce the district’s school police budget by $25 million, and to reallocate the money to schools with more Black students. It’s now been more than three months since that decision, and the country’s second largest school district still hasn’t quite figured out what to do. The interim chief of the Los Angeles school police and the School Safety Task Force have proposed ways to whittle down the department’s budget by 35% — like getting rid of campus assignments and canine units — though they haven’t yet outlined how they think the $25 million saved should be spent.

Whole Children and Strong Communities

The Effects of Absenteeism on Academic and Social-Emotional Outcomes: Lessons for COVID-19

Lucrecia Santibañez and Cassandra Guarino, Annenberg Institute for School Reform

In March 2020, most schools in the United States closed their doors and transitioned to distance learning in an effort to contain COVID-19. During the transition a significant number of students did not fully engage in these learning opportunities due to resource or other constraints. An urgent question for schools around the nation is how much did the pandemic impact student academic and social-emotional development. This paper uses administrative panel data from California to approximate the impact of the pandemic by analyzing how absenteeism affects student outcomes. We show wide variation in absenteeism impacts on academic and social-emotional outcomes by grade and subgroup, as well as the cumulative effect of different degrees of absence. Student outcomes generally suffer more from absenteeism in mathematics than in ELA. Negative effects are larger in middle school. Absences negatively affect social-emotional development, particularly in middle school, with slight differences across constructs. Our results add to the emerging literature on the impact of COVID-19 and highlight the need for student academic and social-emotional support to make up for lost time.

History educator: Let’s teach as if democracy depends on it — because it does

Valerie Strauss, Washington Post

President Trump’s recent call for “patriotic education” in American schools sparked sharp criticism from educators, historians and others who saw it as the latest assault by conservatives who believe that far-left history teachers are indoctrinating students into hating their country. … In this post, educator Noah Zeichner writes about how he is teaching history to his students in Seattle, and his reaction to Trump’s speech about history. Zeichner is National Board-certified social studies and Spanish teacher who was among the 50 finalists for the Global Teacher Prize in 2015.

Renowned educator Paulo Freire would have questioned how we are schooling our kids in the age of COVID-19

Antonia Darder and James Kirylo, The Conversation

Schools across the globe are struggling to provide online academic alternatives during the coronavirus, especially for students from racially and economically marginalized groups. While online education is not new, its mass proliferation amid the pandemic is, and it’s radically changing the face of education. Many students cannot access technology or they grapple with food insecurity – problems that would normally be solved at school. They are also missing out on extracurricular activities that are important for their well-being. The pandemic has also exposed security breaches, online predators and issues of privacy and isolation.

Access, Assessment, Advancement

New DHS Policy Threatens To Undo Gains Made by DACA Recipients

Tom K. Wong, Sanaa Abrar, Claudia Flores, Tom Jawetz, Ignacia Rodriguez Kmec, Juliana Macedo do Nascimento, and Philip E. Wolgin, Center for American Progress

The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative has provided temporary relief from deportation as well as work authorization to approximately 826,000 undocumented young people across the United States since first being enacted in 2012. But despite the Supreme Court’s June ruling rejecting the Trump administration’s termination of DACA—and a federal judge’s order mandating that Trump administration restore DACA fully and begin accepting new, first-time applicants—the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) partially rescinded DACA again in a July 28, 2020, memo. In the memo, DHS announced that it would reject new applications and only grant one-year renewals. From August 18 to September 10, 2020, Tom K. Wong of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at the University of California, San Diego; United We Dream; the National Immigration Law Center; and the Center for American Progress fielded a national survey to analyze the experiences of DACA recipients since the start of the initiative. This study includes 1,157 DACA recipients in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

Beyond ‘test-optional’: Some ‘test-free’ colleges drop the Sat and ACT entirely

Nick Anderson, Washington Post

The California Institute of Technology attracts a certain kind of student, driven to explore science and engineering at the highest levels. It tells prospective applicants mathematics is “the bedrock of all coursework” at the school. More than 90 percent who apply are turned away. Most who enrolled in recent years had perfect or near-perfect math scores on the SAT or ACT. But Caltech won’t even consider those tests in the selection of its next two entering classes. It is in the vanguard of a small but growing movement to eliminate the ACT and SAT from admissions decisions.

Colleges, Organizations Launch National Voter Education Week

Greta Anderson, Inside HigherEd

About 500 voter education and advocacy groups, colleges and universities, and student organizations nationwide have partnered to launch the first National Voter Education Week from Oct. 5 to 9, which includes free, nonpartisan online programming to educate new voters and particularly students. The effort is being led by the Fair Elections Center’s Campus Vote Project, an initiative that works to increase the turnout of college students on Election Day. The programming will educate voters on the process of voting in their state and the “weight of their vote in policy decisions,” according to a press release from the center. The goal of National Voter Education Week is to go beyond voter registration and turnout efforts and help students develop a plan for how and when to vote with a series of online panels and training sessions, so they are motivated and prepared to cast their ballot, the press release said.

Inequality, Poverty, Segregation

Why are schools still such hostile places for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children?

Grace Claire O’Neill, The Guardian

As schools returned to some kind of precarious “normality” in September, I found myself reflecting on the experience that Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) children have of the education system. When looking at the performance and attendance of ethnic groups within both a primary and secondary setting, the statistics are staggering. A government study showed that pupils from GRT ethnic groups had the highest rates of overall absence and persistent absence compared to any other ethnic background. Gypsies and Travellers are 10 times less likely to go to university than their peers.

A World of Hardship: Deep Poverty and the Struggle for Educational Equity

Peter Cookson, Learning Policy Institute

Families living in deep poverty face profound material, social, and emotional hardships. Households in deep poverty suffer from food shortages, unemployment, unstable housing, inadequate medical care, electrical shutoffs, and isolation. Children living in households in deep poverty are often “invisible” to more affluent community members—and likely to many educators as well. Too often, the plight of students living in deep poverty is subsumed under the broad definition of poverty, which does not reveal the unique hardships that are endured by those families and children with virtually no material resources. For those of us who believe in educational equity, making the invisible visible is the first step in overcoming deep disadvantage.

Funding California Schools When Budgets Fall Short

Julien Lafortune, Radhika Mehlotra, Jennifer Paluch, PPIC

State and district policymakers have difficult decisions ahead in their efforts to balance budgets, maintain school services, and prioritize safety amid the COVID-19 recession. While California’s finances are stronger today than after the Great Recession a decade ago, funding for the school system is still volatile, and K–12 schools could face significant cuts if the state’s economy does not recover quickly. In this report, we aim to understand how the Great Recession impacted funding for California’s K–12 system, how prepared districts are for potential funding cuts, and what policy choices could forge a more financially resilient system.

Public Schools and Private Dollars

Book: DeVos’ strong-arm stance on tests part of privatization strategy

Maureen Downey, The Atlanta Journal Constitution

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has long condemned what she calls “the overreach of the federal government in education.” She’s funded escape hatches out of public education, including private schools and home schooling, neither of which is under a federal mandate to test their students each year. So why is DeVos insisting that states, including Georgia, give their students high-stakes tests amid a devastating pandemic that shuttered classrooms for months? Because it serves her overarching goal of destabilizing public education in America, according to the authors of a new book, “A Wolf at the Schoolhouse Door: The Dismantling of Public Education and the Future of School,” due out Nov. 17.

Educators set donation records, back Biden over Trump nearly 6-1

Eliana Miller, OpenSecrets.org

When school started a month ago, teachers told their students to bear with them: this school year will be unprecedented. First graders are learning to type and teleconference. Tenth graders are wearing masks during in-person class. College students are staying put in their childhood bedrooms. What teachers likely didn’t tell their students is that their political donations this year are also unprecedented. This cycle, individuals associated with the education field have reached a new spending high of almost $150 million through August. That’s $52 million more than the previous record in 2016 with plenty of time left for more donations before the election.

LAUSD Election Could Shatter Spending Records — Again

Kyle Stokes, LAist

This year’s election for the LAUSD board is on pace to set another record for campaign spending. With less than a month until election day, outside political groups have spent $11.3 million trying to influence two competitive races. For now, the 2017 campaign holds the spending record, with outside groups reporting more than $14.8 million in “independent expenditures” during that cycle. But if the pace of spending in this year’s races continues, the 2017 record might not last for long. Once again, charter school proponents and LAUSD’s main teachers union are driving most of this spending — and increasingly, the financial battle between the two is becoming one-sided: Advocates aligned with charter schools have spent $8.6 million. That total includes $3.8 million from the California Charter Schools Association. Netflix founder Reed Hastings and another pro-charter school donor, Bill Bloomfield, have pooled funds in a new group called “Kids First,” which has spent more than $1 million so far.

Other News of Note

The Young Latinx and Hispanic Climate Leaders Changing the World

Sophie Hirsh, Green Matters

From Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, we are celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month, a 30-day period dedicated to honoring the contributions and culture that Hispanic and Latinx Americans have shared with society — though we think it’s important to honor the Hispanic and Latinx communities every day of the year. There are numerous incredible Latinx and Hispanic activists in the climate movement, who all use their platforms to advocate for intersectional climate justice. Read on for a list of nine amazing young Latinx and Hispanic climate activists who are leading the climate movement, whether they’re doing so via online education, in-person strikes, or speeches that gain the attention of world leaders.

Kendrick Lamar’s Poetic Awakening

Marcus Moore, The Nation

When Kendrick Lamar was 5, he saw a teenage drug dealer gunned down in front of his apartment building. “A guy was out there serving his narcotics and somebody rolled up with a shotgun and blew his chest out,” he once told NPR. “It [did] something to me right then and there. It let me know that this is not only something that I’m looking at, but it’s something that maybe I have to get used to.” Then, at the age of 8, Kendrick was walking home from Ronald E. McNair Elementary School, past the Tam’s Burgers on Rosecrans Avenue, when he saw a man get shot and killed in the drive-through as he ordered his food. As a child, he toed a fine line between morality and street shit. Too many wrong moves, and Kendrick—the same guy whose music has traveled the globe several times over—would not have made it out of his hometown of Compton, Calif. Although one could say in retrospect that Kendrick’s ascension was ordained, he also needed some luck, a ton of goodwill, and a lot of support from family and friends to pull through.